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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
ElBaradei visit sparks debate

The arrival in Israel of UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei is greeted with a combination of defiance and cynicism in the Middle East media.

Israeli commentators urge the country's leaders to be wary about the visit by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, arguing that the country's need for a viable deterrent is paramount, and warning about "facile" comparisons with Iran.

In the Arab world, the visit is welcomed by some, while others view Israel as a nuclear menace.

Relations between Israel and the International Atomic Energy Agency are more about suspicion than respect. The IAEA regards Israel as a country with nuclear weapons even though it has never declared itself a nuclear power. The IAEA spends most of its efforts on damage control and that is the background of the ElBaradei's visit. Israel is very careful about not spreading nuclear know-how to other countries, though it cooperated with South Africa on nuclear matters in the 1970s and 1980s. And the very policy of ambiguity on its nuclear capabilities also makes things easier for the IAEA when dealing with Israel.

Commentator Yossi Melman in Israel's Haaretz

While international attention is focused on efforts by the Islamic Republic of Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, this visit will turn the focus briefly on Dimona. We will see a flood of facile comparisons between Israel's nuclear ambiguity, which has prevented annihilation, and the radical Iranian leadership's aggressive declarations and policies. As long as Jewish sovereignty and Israel's right to equality as a state among the nations is denied, the need for a credible deterrent will not end. ElBaradei's visit cannot change the strategic realities in the Middle East.

Commentator Gerald Steinberg in Israel's Jerusalem Post

The latest [British and US statements that as long as Israel faces an existential threat it should not concede its nuclear ability] have reinforced Israel's position concerning the nuclear issue. Armed with such an important British-US statement, Israel can welcome IAEA head Dr Mohamed ElBaradei with all due respect, but give him the cold shoulder... [Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak demands that Samson's tresses be cut from Israel's head, and his subject ElBaradei backs him. Show him much respect, but suspect him even more.

Commentator Dan Margalit in Israel's Maariv

Will ElBaradei's visit succeed in opening Dimona's locked door? The answer perhaps is to be found in Washington!

Egypt's Al-Jumhuriyah

We should always remember that the one who initiated the construction of the Dimona nuclear plant was Shimon Perez who is considered the father of the Israeli nuclear bomb. He carries the banner of peace now and unfortunately received the Nobel peace prize.

Palestinian Al-Quds

ElBaradei's visit to Israel has its significance. Its importance was revealed when he said he would visit Israel to urge it to enter into serious talks to make the Middle East free of nuclear weapons. We hope that ElBaradei will put the ball in Israel's court and state his proposals so that the Jewish state does not disengage from the nuclear issue. It is not logical for the international community to judge other countries like Iran and North Korea, and ignore Israel.

United Arab Emirates' Al-Bayan

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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